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The Queen's Vase (in memory of Sir Henry Cecil) preview

The tearjerker of the day is likely to be this race, renamed to honour the great Sir Henry Cecil. Estimate won it last year so it has a lot to live up to. Making his blog debut is Dan Briden, @DanBriden. You can read more of his excellent work over at SBB Columns.


5.00 Royal Ascot – The Queen's Vase (in memory of Sir Henry Cecil)

The Queen’s Vase is almost always a interesting race, it annually bringing together a mixed big of three-year-olds in terms of ability, and this year’s renewal sees a couple with form at this level taking on a host of improving handicappers/promising maiden winners – notable winners of this contest in recent times include Mamool, Patkai, Mikhail Glinka and Estimate.

Dashing Star, trained by David Elsworth, is a son of Teofilo who came good at the third time of asking when landing a 1m maiden at Nottingham last backend, travelling well throughout and seeing it out strongly. He was too keen for his own good when only fifth in a good 10f handicap at Sandown on his return, and was outclassed when last of eight behind Libertarian in the Dante Stakes at York next time. However, he bounced back to form when landing a 12f handicap at Musselburgh earlier this month, waited with at the rear of the field and still having plenty to do when ridden over two furlongs out, staying on well for pressure from over a furlong out to lead close home and win going away by 2 lengths from Naru. It was a real staying performance from this sizable colt, who has always been held in high esteem by his veteran handler, and it isn’t hard to see why he has been brought here given the way he finished off his race; absolutely no surprise to see him find the necessary improvement needed to land this prize, with the extra half a mile likely to suit on the evidence of last time.

The Aidan O’Brien-trained Leading Light is a son of Montjeu who stepped up on a low-key debut effort to land a heavy-ground 1m 1f maiden at Tipperary last autumn and, after returning with a win in a 10f contest at the Curragh, landed the hat-trick with victory over Little White Cloud in a 10f Group 3 at Navan last month, making just about all and sticking on gamely. He shapes as though he will be suited by a stiffer test of stamina and is clearly a colt of considerable potential, but quite whether this sort of test will suit remains to be seen (dam a Queen Mary winner); penalised for his latest success and doesn’t make much appeal at his current price.

Lady Cecil’s Disclaimer failed to live up his home reputation at two, albeit signed off with victory in a 1m 1f maiden at Redcar, but he has improved no end for a gelding operation and stiffer test of stamina this term, landing a pair of handicaps at Doncaster (10f) and Kempton (11f) in smooth fashion. He completed his hat-trick in a two-runner Listed affair over 11f at Goodwood last month, going well in front but appearing held by sole rival Contributer when that one challenged under two furlongs out, but he rallied well to quickly regain the lead entering the final furlong and kept on well to score by 2½ lengths. He progressive at a rapid rate and certainly shapes as though a potential stayer, and his pedigree certainly lends hope that he will prove effective at this trip, his dam a winner over 1m 6f and a full sister to a 1m 6f Listed winner and a half sister to Yorkshire Cup winner Manifest; would be a most poignant winner of this race and certainly not wishful thinking that it could happen.

Mark Johnston’s Mister Impatience came good in style when landing a 1m maiden at Nottingham on his third and final outing at two, and he fairly routed the opposition when making a winning return to action in a heavy-ground 10f handicap at Doncaster on the opening day of the season, putting 9 lengths between himself and the rest. He disappointed up in grade on much better ground when fourth behind Mirsaale in the Derby trial at Newbury, and had the run of things before being left behind by subsequent Derby winner Ruler Of The World in the Chester Vase next time. He shaped last time in a 10f Listed contest as though in need of a stiffer test, outpaced initially before staying on again inside the final furlong to finish fourth of five behind Hoarding; stable has enjoyed success in this race in recent times and, for all a slower surface would have suited better, no surprise to see this colt show improved form for this stiffer test of stamina.

Stablemate Royal Skies has hit form in no uncertain terms these past couple of weeks, stretching clear to put 9 lengths between himself and Duke Of Perth in a 10f handicap at Pontefract, and he easily saw off his only remaining rival (stablemate unseated three furlongs out) in a three-runner affair over an extended 12f at Musselburgh last weekend. He is clearly going the right way and represents a stable that does well in this, including with progressive handicappers; withdrawn from yesterday’s King George V Handicap (drawn wide).

The John Gosden-trained Nichols Canyon shaped with promise in a pair of decent maidens at Sandown (7f/1m) before coming good at the third time of asking when landing a 1m 1f maiden at the expense of yesterday’s King George V Handicap winner Elidor, seeming to relish the extra furlong and ease in the ground. He has run a couple of solid races in defeat so far, finishing ahead of the keen-going Dashing Star in a 10f handicap at Sandown on his return before hanging away victory at Newbury last month, staying on powerfully once straighten up to run Prairie Ranger to a short head. He would have won but for hanging persistently right, perhaps feeling the ground (similar conditions here), but he has shaped as though stamina is his forte and this race looks a good fit for him; no surprise to see him very much involved here.

Stablemate Feel Like Dancing looked a promising sort when staying on well to land an 11f maiden at Newbury on his debut outing in April, but he still looked rough around the edges when last of four behind Ruler Of The World in the Chester Vase (Mister Impatience second). He simply looked devoid of pace when fifth of sixth behind Maputo in a 10f handicap at Newmarket (July) a fortnight ago; step up in distance may help matters and now tried in cheekpieces, but plenty more needed and no surprise to see William Buick stick with Nichols Canyon.

Sir Michael Stoute’s Baihas is a Nayef son of Doncaster Cup winner Allegretto (herself the daughter of a Doncaster Cup heroine), and he shaped with plenty of promise when just failing to overhaul Deira Phantom in a 12f maiden at Salisbury back in May. He duly went one better in a three-runner 14f maiden at Yarmouth 17 days ago, niggled along on the approach to the home straight and ridden three furlongs out, responding two furlongs out and staying on well inside the final furlong to see off Enaitch by 2½ lengths. It was a far from convincing performance in what looked a very winnable contest, but it was only his second career outing and the fact he is brought straight here speaks volumes about the improvement expected from him over this trip; bred to make his mark in good staying races and comes from a stable that took this with a similarly unexposed sort 12 months ago, so not ruled out with cheekpieces now tried.

The Hughie Morrison-trained Nearly Caught is a New Approach half brother to smart middle distance stayer Pink Mimosa who caused something of a shock when landing a 10f maiden at Windsor on his debut in April, making smooth progress on the outer over two furlongs out and sealing matters in stylish fashion, scoring by 2 lengths from Punditry. Time has shown he achieved just a modest level of form on that occasion and a whole lot more will be needed over this new trip and up in grade, but he hails from a stable that rarely has them ready to strike on debut, so that he did marks him down as potentially useful; interesting contender.



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